May 1, 2007

to swim or not to swim?

My soon-to-be-eight-year-old wants to join Swim Team.

Besides the normal blessings we count with our children--ten fingers, ten toes, that sort of thing--I had always considered a major blessing that neither of my boys wanted to play baseball or join swim team. I know what you're thinking: what an un-American commie pinko I must be. Baseball? Who wouldn't want their son to play baseball, for God's sake?

Me, that's who. Around here, little league is not just a game. It's not just a sport. It's not just an activity. It's a serious commitment in time, energy, money, and emotion. Most teams practice at least two days a week with games another one or two days a week. And I remember my own little league games--interminably hot and dreadfully boring, sitting around for an hour between brief periods of activity. Most of the activity involves failing to hit the ball, failing to throw the ball, or failing to catch the ball. Don't get me wrong--I wasn't bad at the sport. In fact, on opening day one year I hit the game-winning triple. And I was often asked to attempt to steal second. But I also ended many games with a swing and a miss.

In any case, I just don't get why kids like baseball. Talk about boring. And it can't be much better for the parents. I suppose if you are a fan of the majors, playing would be fun. I used to like it, before the last player strike. Now all I see of the professional sport is the economic stupidity of it all. Forty bucks for a few hot dogs and beers, and where does that money go? To a guy who makes ten million dollars a year to sit on the bench because he has a deep thigh bruise or something. People call the lotter a "stupidity tax." I think major league baseball is probably the biggest wealth redistribution program in the nation's history--taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

But I digress.

Most of the little leaguers around here will probably be out of the sport after 8th grade, if not earlier. So why spend half the weekend canceling other activities because of baseball games?

Swim team is different in that at least it helps the kids become better swimmers, and that can only help when they're adults, even if they don't stick with it as a sport. But it's even more of a commitment than baseball. Swim team practice in the summer is every freakin' day. Swim meets are every Sunday, all day. Parents are required to volunteer in the snack bar, or timing races, or doing something else. Out here in the summer, the weather gets to be over a hundred not infrequently. And again, it's a lot of sitting around waiting with brief periods of frantic activity.

So I was not that happy when Younger Son declared he wanted to join Swim Team. I was much less happy when I realized how much it would cost, even forgetting the personal time commitment in the snack bar. Keep in mind that we have our own swimming pool, which is not an inexpensive thing to maintain. We keep it up ourselves and chemicals don't cost that much, but energy to run the pump and a new liner every eight years and other activity add up. But to join Swim Team we have to join the local "cabana club," the community pool. There's a $400 initiation fee. Then another $400 annual fee for membership. Then another $125 for each kid that joins Swim Team. Holy crap. A grand just to sign up. Then another $500 a year until he gets tired of it. You'd think Swim Team would be the cheapest sport on the planet. A speedo every couple of years, maybe some ear plugs. Goggles perhaps. Even soccer should be more expensive.

But he's my kid. What am I going to do?


bluesugarpoet said...

You'll pony up the money because you are a good dad AND because this exercise will build character - not character in your son, although that perhaps will happen - in you. It will build the kind of character that graciously says every year, "That's a heck of a lot of money, son, but you are worth it." It's the kind of character that graciously times races because his son is doing something that he loves to do.

Then one day he may - thankfully? - lose interest in swim team. Don't worry, though; baseball season is just around the corner, and you can learn, instead, to love throwing money at that too because you love your son(s).

bluesugarpoet said...

That being said, is there another swim team that he can join that is less expensive? You know - the kind where they have to sew their own Speedos to save a buck? lol

Unknown said...

My sisters and I were on two swim teams when we were growing up. One at the local golf and tennis club during the summer, and another at the local YMCA during the winter. The first was expensive no doubt, but the one at the Y was pretty cheap, with bake sales, etc. involved for funding. But both were major time commitments, and even worse if one of us did well and went to some regional meet (that never happened to me that I recall, just my sisters; which meant I went to a lot of those meets and sat around.)

I actually did OK until about age 10, and then most other kids got their first growth spurts and I didn' over.